Quick Malta facts
- Population: Over 405,000
- How big is Malta? 316 square km. Main island Malta is stretches roughly 30 km.
- Language: Both Maltese and English are the country’s official languages.
- Religion: Roman Catholic (over 90% of the population)
- Currency: The Euro, since 1 January 2008
- Money: Several banks (HSBC, BOV and Banif being the major ones) are located in the various localities and several ATMs are situated around commercial and tourist areas.
- Electricity: 230 Volts, 50Hz. UK-style three-pin square plugs are used
- Telephony: The country code is +356 and outgoing code is 00, followed by the country code. The three major mobile phone network operators are Vodafone, Go Mobile and Melita
- Time zone: GMT +1
- Tap water is safe for drinking, though bottled water is preferred by most locals – an issue of taste mostly
- Malta is one of the latest additions to the European Union (joined on 1 May, 2004)
- Malta is the country with the most holidays in the EU: 14 to be exact.
Malta historical facts
- Around 17,000 years ago, the Maltese islands were the mountain tops of one landmass which connected current-day Malta to Sicily and even mainland Italy
- The earliest evidence of human settlement on Malta, found Ghar Dalam cave structures in the south of the island, dates back around 7,400 years ago
- The Megalithic temples that Malta is known for are the oldest free-standing stone structures in the world, older than Stonehenge
- In 60 AD, St. Paul was shipwrecked in Malta and converted its inhabitants to Christianity
- Malta used to be part of the British empire until its independence on 21 September, 1964
- … though still forms part of the British Commonwealth.
Etymology of “Malta”
The name “Malta” is said to have been derived from:
- the Greek word ‘meli’ (‘honey’). The Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melite) meaning “honey” or “honey-sweet”, which could possibly refer to the island’s historic production of honey, taken from a specific species of bee which can be found in Malta, or:
- the Phoenician word Maleth meaning “a haven,” which refers to the many bays and coves that can be found along Malta’s coastline.
Malta hosts 75 local village feasts (or ‘festa’) between June and September, which is a festivity in honour of the town’s patron saint and is originally a religious celebration. The three phrases that summarise such events are fireworks, religious processions and band marches. A few local tour operators organise trips to some of the more popularly celebrated feasts or festa.
The Knights of Malta
The Knights of St John of Jerusalem were given control over Malta in 1530 by Charles V of Spain, and left their mark on the island, until capitulating to Napoleon’s advancement in 1798. The Knights of Malta are most remembered for successfully defending the island against the Ottomans during The Great Siege of 1565. The eight point Crusade cross often associated with the Knights of Malta later became known as the Maltese Cross.
The history of Malta stretches back 7,000 years. Temples here predate the Egyptian pyramids and England’s Stonehenge. While the island does not have any natural inland fresh water source, the geography of the coastline has made it the perfect backdrop for speculation that sister-island Gozo is Calypso’s island, from Homer’s Odyssee.
As mentioned in the Holy Bible, St Paul and St Luke were shipwrecked here in 60 AD and Christianity has been the reigning religion on the island ever since. There is a church or chapel on practically every corner and over 90% of the population follows the Catholic faith.
Malta’s Capital City
Malta’s capital city Valletta was named after a Grand Master of the Knights of St John, Jean Parisot de la Valette who governed the island from 1557-1568. It was de la Valette himself who laid the first stone in 1566, commissioning the construction of the new city, on the hill where the Turkish invaders were dealt a defeat a year earlier, during the Great Siege of Malta. Valletta was intended to become, first and foremost, a key part of Malta’s defence at a location which had proven to be vulnerable to attack and was heavily fortified with strong bastions and deep moats. The city’s buildings were designed to impress and, despite Valletta having been battered badly during WWII, much of the grandeur of past times is still visible with many of the earliest buildings having been restored to full glory.
The University of Malta
The University of Malta is the country’s highest educational institution, which offers undergraduate Bachelor’s degrees, post-graduate Master’s degrees and postgraduate Doctorates (PhD). Having been founded as the Collegium Melitense in 1592, the University of Malta is the oldest university in the Commonwealth outside of Britain.